Pirates of Polokwane* Shaik their Booty

That was going to be my headline for the story I was going to write about the appointment of Mo Shaik to head the secret service.

I decided not to write about it. I simply can’t.

I was going to point out that the South African Secret Service is responsible for all non-military foreign intelligence and counter-intelligence functions. I was going to say that in the post-9/11 globalized world that makes SASS scary powerful.

I was going to gently hint to possible readers about Mo’s recent history of scheming mediocrity, of his Stalinist grandiosity and his few weeks training with the Stasi in the GDR in the 80’s that supposedly qualifies him for the job – but I realised the adjectives were over-the-top –  and detracted from the general story.

I wanted to remind readers that Mo brought his friend Cyril Beeka to Polokwane as his bodyguard. I was going to leave that out there like a mysterious depth charge …

Then there was Trevor Manuel squashing Mo at Polokwane, when Mo said there may be a place in Zuma’s government for Trevor, if only he could break his habits of thought.

It would have been useful to put in the quote from Trevor when he snapped back:

Your conduct is certainly not something in the tradition of the ANC. It is obvious you have no intention of becoming part of any elected collective within the organisation, yet you arrogate to yourself the role of determinant

Hmm, I was going to say that Trevor underestimated Mo …. but maybe he overestimated Zuma. I was going to ask you to consider what Trevor Manuel must be feeling now.

It would have been interesting to talk about the Mandla Judson Kuzwayo Unit of the ANC underground and Operation Bible and Nkobi Holdings – and Mo’s central role in the Heffer Commission in 2003. But what could I say about these things that would stand up in court?

It would have been important to describe  Mo Shaik’s role in the struggle (by the now ruling ANC faction) to prevent Jacob Zuma facing corruption charges. Or his more general role in backing Zuma’s rise to the presidency.

And I would have liked to remind us of the damage done to our politics by a partisan security establishment – and by loyalist appointments.

Then I would have had to go into Mo Shaik’s tight relationship with brother’s Chippy and Shabir – I don’t really know much about Yunus.

It almost would not have been necessary to mention that Chippy headed SANDF defence procurements – the heart of the arms-deal scandal.

And of course the “dying”  convicted fraudster Shabir needs no introduction – not in his role in bribing Jacob Zuma and not in his preferential access to arms deal contracts through his relationship with Chippy and Zuma.

But then I realised I am just too discomforted to talk about this without drowning the criticism in hyperbole.

Would I be able to avoid words and phrases like “bombastic”, “mediocre”, “quasi-criminal”, “political bully” when talking about this and similar appointments?

Who cares if I think this is the first serious public sign of a deep and threatening  malaise in the ANC government?

So I decided I wouldn’t write anything about it until I had calmed down and taken a deep breath.

So I didn’t.

* See the incomparable Zapiro’s “Pirates of Polkwane”

(PS – added on October 5: the DA comment published on Politicsweb is unusually good. See it here.)

8 thoughts on “Pirates of Polokwane* Shaik their Booty

  1. My brother-in-law comes over from New Zealand every so often and makes a point of telling me he misses the political cut-and-thrust that is the daily loaf of bread of most South Africans. I mostly nod and agree that we have it pretty good – its interesting being here.
    But there are times when I wonder whether our naturally sunny disposition, our willingness to ponder for a short while and then dismiss something disturbing as another small burden to bear, is not going to bite us in the arse someday.
    It seems we have lived in a tabloid state for a decade, and one day we’ll wake up and discover that the rot is on our doorstep, not somewhere far away and amusing.
    Contentiously speaking: perhaps we must understand the Brandon’s of this world (the Canadian-bound dude). BTW: whatever has happened to him?

  2. Hi Mark – you know, despite the fact that I am horrified by this appointment it doesn’t for a second raise the issue of whether I want to be here or not. Despite everything that has happened my disquiet about Mo and the New Management is most similar to hearing that a close friend or family member was developing a serious drug habit – or some unacceptable social deviation. They’re still your family – even when you help send them to prison or Noupoort. Which is were certain members of this crew should be …. Like LC said: “I love the country, but I can’t stand the scene …. I’m the garbage bag that time cannot decay…. I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little wild bouquet …..” – Nic

  3. Absolutely. No question.
    But there’s an irritation in me now that hasn’t ever been there/was there but was quiet enough to be dormant.
    Turning that itch to a question (badly): how many of these bad appointments, decisions, scary attacks on our bulwarks of sanity, before the centre falls apart (apologies to Achebe and Yeats)?
    The pessimist in me wonders whether we have built up enough of a wall against bad management, unknown levels of distrust and antagonism, greed, manipulation etc to hold them back?
    And I guess, the bloody media isn’t helping with the constantly horrific stories of the state of play in things like healthcare etc.
    Where, I guess I am asking, is the tipping point into chaos for our beloved country?
    Is there one?

  4. @ Mark and Phil – we have to wonder where this whole thing is headed. Just because one loves to be here doesn’t mean we are not seeing the rise of a kind of system of patronage that could do immeasurable damage in the long run. For me, as the ‘blog author” I can endeavour to monitor it as honestly as I can … but as father and aspirant adult human being I do find myself seething at the gangsters and crooks who are wheedling into the centre of our political life.

  5. You know, when I first read the Dinakeng (?) scenarios with their seemingly shallow conclusion (we have to become citizen activists), that was driven by one group (Old Mutual with almost 40% of discussion participants connected in some way), I dismissed it all as just a pre-election salvo from business to a populist Government.

    Mo has made me reappraise that. Perhaps some lobbying and activism is the way to go, but where? How? The lobbies I know of are either academic and/or useless?

    And business, by and large, are prepared to sit quietly and moan while devising ways to move assets elsewhere.

  6. Perhaps is is a particularly difficult thing for business … and any financial market player, to stick his/her neck outside their rigidly defined field. Their raison d’être is no more and no less than to compete successfully against each other — taking up a banner of any kind can threaten their ability to do that . I realise that “enlightened” self-interest can cause businesses to pursue broader goals – but never to the extent that they limit their customer or supplier base to those who agree with them about politics or ecology or whatever. My personal view of politics is you gotta keep making a noise, stirring the pot, irritating those in power, nipping at their heals – always motivated by trying to make the hidden dynamics of a situation reveal themselves. It’s not much of a philosophy, but it is the only one I have today.

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